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November 2012

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    Two recent incidents brought home how deeply Wi-Fi is establishing itself as the preferred network for mobile phones. On vacation recently in South Asia, I was at a café and trying to figure out how I could get Wi-Fi for my phone and tab, when I saw a poster: “Free Wi-Fi for operator X’s customers.” I happened to be such a customer and immediately connected to the Wi-Fi network. Last week, shopping for a mobile device for my daughter, I noticed there are now phones with Wi-Fi capability available for less than USD 50, and most mid-end feature phones have built-in support for Wi-Fi. My personal impression of increased Wi-Fi presence and usage are borne out by data around the world. According to Nielsen, close to 80% of all data traffic on Android phones in the UK is carried over Wi-Fi networks. Laptops, the primary consumers of Wi-Fi for so many years, are now relegated to second place with smart phones being the most common device using Wi-Fi.

    These trends increasingly indicate that Wi-Fi has an essential part to play in a mobile operator’s strategy. Wi-Fi offload, when mobile operators actively use Wi-Fi as part of their data access network, has many benefits for operators as well as customers. These include improved congestion management on cellular networks, cost-effective leveraging of Wi-Fi POPs and better understanding of subscriber behavior. The same Nielsen study also points out that there is a decrease in 3G traffic by 55% in the night, but taken together with Wi-Fi usage this actually represents a 30% increase! All these benefits can be derived if the experience of switching between cellular and Wi-Fi can be made seamless, which can happen only when operators take an active role in delivering a smooth service experience.

    This seamless experience for subscribers can be achieved when:

    • Wi-Fi can be included in a regular cellular price plan
    • the same MSISDN can be used for authentication, billing/charging and support and
    • subscribers don’t need to hunt and locate Wi-Fi hotspots

    Each of these has conventionally called for different products to be deployed within the network. Now, single platforms have emerged that can do all this in an integrated manner, taking the burden off the operator to deploy and manage a mess of interfaces. Every network can and should explore these integrated mobile data platforms and take advantage of Wi-Fi offload to improve end user experience and the efficiency of its data network.

    Meanwhile, I will keep hunting (and haunting) cafés which offer free Wi-Fi as one of their specials.

    November 28, 2012 0 comment
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    In the mobile Internet arena, reports from all of world’s leading telecom analysts point to one thing: the imminent data deluge. The combination of increasing smartphone penetration, evolution in data consumption patterns and the advent of LTE are driving this incredible growth in data volumes. With more than 7 billion connected devices by 2015, mobile data promises to be the future of telecom. This phenomenon is not just limited to developed markets. In fact, emerging market regions (Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Middle East and Africa) are expected to have the highest growth and will represent an increasing share of total mobile data traffic in the next 5 years.

    In emerging markets, although growth and usage patterns of the mobile Internet usage exhibit a high degree of variability, mobile broadband traffic volumes are registering exponential growth. While this provides excellent revenue opportunity, several challenges need to be addressed before operators can benefit from this data growth. Operators need the ability to, manage bandwidth usage by different subscribers and services, create differentiated services to stand out from competition, and manage congestion at backhaul and radio network level etc. To address these challenges, operators worldwide are turning to policy management.

    Policy management refers to defining and applying different policies to control browsing speed, charging, authorization etc. based on traffic type, subscriber profile, time and location amongst others. Policy management enables operators to deliver personalized services, better browsing experience, competitive discounts, innovative promotional strategies and loyalty programs and much more. From enabling operators to perform effective traffic shaping by providing different QoS for different services to facilitating launch of flexible data plans, policy management solutions form an integral part of the service provider’s mobile data platform.

    While I have been tracking developments in Policy Management, one of the emerging use cases of policy management in recent times is ‘bandwidth on demand’. This refers to the concept of providing higher bandwidth to a subscriber for a small period of time. A research study by Infonetics shows that operators rate ‘bandwidth on demand’ as the topmost application driver for policy management deployment.

    Policy management enables operators to not only provide bandwidth on demand but also to choose from different ways to offer this feature. Using a policy management solution, operators can offer ‘bandwidth on demand’ for different time periods such as 1 hour, 2 hours, 24 hours etc. Operators can also provide this feature to subscribers who are using certain data plans. Operators can define the QoS that can be provided during this period as well as choose to charge the subscriber in different ways like either charge them every time they enable this feature or provide “n” such options per month as part of the subscriber’s data package.

    Hence, the impending data deluge promises great revenue potential but only for operators who are prepared to handle the increasing data volumes, manage rising subscriber expectations and differentiate themselves from competitors. Policy management provides operators with effective tools to manage traffic both at backhaul and radio network, and eliminate network congestion. Further, policy management enables operators to provide customized and personalized offerings, which improve subscriber experience and thereby reduce churn. In addition, policy management enables operators to create innovative services that not only provide additional revenues but also enable them to differentiate themselves from competitors.

    November 20, 2012 0 comment
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